Notes from the The BIG G

Posted on May 17, 2014 by gucdc in Events


If you were not able to attend our 2014 Community Forum on Gentrification, you can watch a Video with Opening Remarks by Garlen Capita, GU Board Chair Followed by the Keynote address by Colvin Grannum, Executive Director of Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. We were happy to have Colvin return to this year’s community forum as Bedford Stuyvesant has experienced

Excerpt from Colvin Grannum:

The only thing that is constant is change.” Heraclitus

By starting this conversation before Gentrification is underway we have the opportunity to institutionalize the “Arts and Culture” of Germantown before it gets diminished by new residents.

In Bed Stuy one way this was done was by  “Glory in a Snapshot” a program that took historical photos and agree with new business owners such as “Super Foodtown” a grocery store to permanently display these blown up photos as decorative and informative Art.

Spike Lee in his “I’m gonna kill you now” infamous response to “Gentrification being a good thing” was speaking about culture unique to place being taken out of a place when newcomers can’t relate because it’s not their own experience.

Steve Mullin stated that  “Open Markets do what they do; Do we interfere with it?”  and spoke of the 1896 “Separate but Equal” Supreme Court Ruling that no longer exists but it is seen in today’s schools by the tax base funding the schools and poorer neighborhoods have schools primarily composed of black students.

Steve Mullin stated “Duh” to the argument that Public Schools are what stops urban neighborhoods from being diverse and economically sustainable.  He stated the solution to this lies not in the schools but in Encouraging the government to change policy to create a demand for employment and to not tax businesses that operate in the city so that those businesses move to first ring suburbs.

Nora Lichtash spoke of the need for inclusionary zoning and how at WCRP she figured out the 1 of every 4 pieces of land in her jurisdiction was vacant or abandoned.  By utilizing a “Listening Project” she worked with 325 residences to create the idea of a Community Land Trust.  This Trust was the idea of taking any publically owned land revitalizing it with new homes that could be purchased by citizens but at time of sale the community gets it back in order to sell it again at an affordable price.   The Mayor signed the Land Bank Bill and it is in effect today.

This Land Bank Idea gives GUCDC the example that if one plans ahead they can ultilize public owned property to meet the needs of the community rather than developers “driving the open market”.  Three prime commercial buildings that could impact the community and institutionalize the “Arts and Culture” we want to instill in the community are YMCA, Germantown High School, and Town Hall.

Betty Turner, a long time Germantown resident, spoke of the ebbs and flows of Germantown and how she lived in Germantown when it was a thriving clean, active community in the 50s and how she stayed through the bad times and wants to be able stay once it gets revitalized and not get pushed out.

One Community member who is new to the GU board stated in one workshop group, “Don’t Move; Improve.”

Allan Greenberger made an anecdotal example about how government work by talking about how the Streets Department has a limited yearly budget for the city and how this year they are spending 70% of it redoing the corner ADA accessible ramps to meet new standards and applications.  He said that even though only a small percentage of the population will be affected by these changes they have the loudest voice so we are complying with their requests.

Meg Sowell, an attendee, stated that  when she’s done work with Germantown there are so many loud and disparate voices that it’s hard to get things done because they’re no clear objective due to so many voices speaking at once.  She stated that when she did work near LaSalle there was one group that she worked with that got a lot done in part because they used two “Americacore volunteers to do the legwork.”   She stated that Germantown United needs to help touch citizens to come together to compromise and rally their voices to meet a few most important issues/wants by not working in silos but working together.  She stated GU needs to get Ameriacore volunteers or the like, right away, to help better the independent RCOs to work better and rally together.

One Comment

  1. The Overwhelming Persistence of Neighborhood Poverty
    for all the debate, gentrification is far from the norm.

    Richard Florida
    May 20, 2014
    Source: The Atlantic City-Lab

    Among urban policy-focused academics, few issues today are as distressing and contentious as gentrification. Much of the focus in public debate has been on the newly upscale neighborhoods in major U.S. cities, like New York’s Chelsea, East Village, or Williamsburg; San Francisco’s Portero Hill and Mission District; Chicago’s Wicker Park; or Boston’s South End.

    But for all of this ferment, urban poverty remains deep and concentrated. Just how often do high-poverty neighborhoods really transform, with dramatic reductions in poverty rates? The answer will be essential for understanding who benefits from neighborhood change and who is left behind.

    And according to a new study from Joseph Cortright of the economic consulting firm Impresa and Portland State doctoral student Dillon Mahmoudi, the answer is very rarely.

    The study, released earlier this month, compared neighborhood-level poverty rates in the country’s 51 largest metro areas in 1970 and 2010, focusing on changes in the Census tracts within a 10 mile radius around the urban core. Using data from the U.S. Decennial Census and American Community Survey data compiled by the Brown University Longitudinal Database, the researchers found that very few high-poverty neighborhoods in 1970 dramatically reversed their fortunes over the next four decades.

    In 1970, there were 1,119 tracts in their study where more than 30 percent of residents lived below the poverty line, about double the poverty rate for the nation as a whole. These neighborhoods were home to 5 million Americans at the time.

    Entrenched poverty was just about the most constant thing about these neighborhoods. By 2010, fully two-thirds of these poor neighborhoods, 750 tracts in all, were still beset by chronic and concentrated poverty in 2010. Overall, their populations shrunk 40 percent over those forty years, as many of those who were able to move out did.

    On the other hand, only a small fraction of neighborhoods had turned around in a way that approximates what we call gentrification. Just 105 tracts, or about 10 percent, saw their poverty rates fall below 15 percent, meaning a smaller proportion of their residents lived in poverty than in the nation as a whole. The populations of these tracts grew by about 30 percent over this same period.

    The authors explain that the prevailing gentrification narrative is likely quite limited, obscuring far more than it exposes:
    “It’s undeniable that in these striking cases, the character of the neighborhood has changed sharply: what was once undesirable and affordable, and populated by the poor has become desirable and unaffordable, with few poor people remaining. While highly visible, it’s unclear whether these instances of wholesale transformation are widespread.”

    Far more widespread has been the huge decline of many neighborhoods in the urban center. The authors traced the fate of what they call “fallen star” neighborhoods – tracts that had below-average poverty rates in 1970 (less than 15 percent), but more than 30 percent of their residents living below the poverty line by 2010. More than 1,200 of these tracts shifted from low to high poverty during this time, contributing to an overall increase in the number of neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. Today, 10.7 million Americans live in 3,100 extremely poor neighborhoods in and around America’s largest city centers.

    In other words, for every single gentrified neighborhood, 12 once-stable neighborhoods have slipped into concentrated disadvantage. The authors write:
    “Far more common than gentrification—and far less commented upon—is the overwhelming persistence of high poverty in those neighborhoods where it is established, the steady decay in population that chronic high poverty neighborhoods experience, and the steady and widespread transformation of formerly low poverty neighborhoods into high poverty areas.”

    This finding is in line with a recent study from the Cleveland Fed, which found that gentrification (measured as substantial increases in housing values) was limited to a relatively small group of superstar cities like Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Boston.

    As Harvard’s Robert Sampson and NYU’s Patrick Sharkey have pointed out, concentrated poverty – with people stuck in disadvantaged neighborhoods for generations – remains a constant of our cities. Such chronic and entrenched poverty can have long-lasting effects on the life chances of those who live there. As classes continue to segment and segregate away from one another, our cities risk becoming a patchwork of concentrated disadvantage juxtaposed with concentrated advantage.

    Perhaps the biggest urban policy question of the coming decades will be how to create new pathways for opportunity for those living in places associated with entrenched poverty. While much attention has focused on the plight of those who are displaced by gentrification, the far more pressing issues center on the persistence of poverty and disadvantage in the urban center.


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